International student commencements from July to October this year declined by 36% over 2019 across Australia, but overseas partnerships have helped shore up provision for international students unable to get to Australia, allowing them to start courses in their home countries.

Between 22-32% of commencements were estimated to have been made from outside the country in 2020.

Western Sydney University has been measured in establishing partnerships in TNE. However from 2014 a concerted effort really started to commit [to] growth of partnerships and TNE activities,” explained Marisa Furno associate director (international partnerships) at Western Sydney University and deputy convenor IEAA TNE Network.

“We now have approximately 420 agreements with 362 partners. There’s been phenomenal growth in the last five and a half years.”

“There’s been phenomenal growth in the last five and a half years”

The university is currently looking at a range of models to further extend its TNE offering, including considering utilising its IP to deliver curriculums from the second year of undergraduate study onwards at partner institutions.

“We also then ensure that we provide annual curriculum updates and that we undertake at least one or two guest teaching sessions per year,” Furno explained.

“The benefits we see with this particular program is that the Quality Office is very supportive of this model because we’ve built in some additional quality assurance measures. They’re very confident that the students and the partners will be robustly prepared for that final year study once they come to Australia.”

However, she also noted that the sharing of IP hasn’t previously been a popular model.

“We find that academics are quite reticent in sharing curriculum,” she admitted.

“Setting a value on our content has also been quite provocative, especially in regard to expectations that our partners have.”

Furno also noted that the sharing of IP could build academic relationships and open up professional development opportunities.

“A dream project I envision for Western Sydney is the development of a single undergraduate degree or an international undergraduate degree with two or three partners who equally contribute to the development of curriculum,” she continued.

“Each of those partners accredits the program as its own formal award, irrespective of where the students take their classes or where content is delivered.”

Although such a model raises challenges around accreditation, regulations, language of instruction and entry requirements, Furno said it would bring increased mobility opportunities.

“This model would provide high flexibility to students to move from partner to partner as they wish,” she said.

“Setting a value on our content has also been quite provocative”

“And there’s the enhanced mobility opportunities when academics travel to a partner and they can take students from their institution as an outbound study tour.”

However, expanding TNE projects garnered interest even before Covid-19. The Department of Education, Skills and Employment registered the number of offshore students studying with domestic institutions as 116,678 in 2019, up 3.9% from 2018.

Australia’s National Strategy for International Education 2025, published in 2016, noted that many opportunities for potential growth “may occur offshore, and could also centre on capacity building, such as training the trainers, as well as providing direct training”.

“Given the scale of the potential demand, Australian training providers may increase capacity through partnership or consortia arrangements with one another when entering these markets,”the report addded.

“The success of this strategy is dependent on stakeholders working together to grow our international education offerings.”

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